A Plea for Positive Education in Schools

Author: Simon Zopfi, HS PE Teacher

 

 

 

The rise of positive psychology

“Dr. Seligman, how would you describe the state of the field of psychology today?” “Good.” “Okay, Dr. Seligman, that won’t do. We better give you two words…” “Not good.”

“Look, Dr. Seligman, we can see you’re not comfortable in this medium. The best we can do is give you three words…” “Not good enough.”

Dr. Seligman, the Head of the American Psychological Association at the time describes his interaction during an interview with CNN in his TED talk about Positive Psychology in 2004.

Until the late 1990’s psychology was the science of finding out “what’s wrong with you” and trying to get people from a constant state of suffering into a state of coping with everyday life.

A lot has changed over the last 20 or so years. Psychology still concerns itself with relieving suffering but the field has expanded further into the science behind human flourishing. Dr. Seligman himself launched the era of positive psychology in 1998 when taking on the role of Head of the APA and stood at the foundation of the development and implementation of his work in schools, calling it “Positive Education,” working with and living on campus of Geelong Grammar School (GGS) in Sydney for 6 months.

Researchers and teachers put their heads together and developed the Geelong Grammar School Model for Positive Education. A science-informed framework that outlines and guides the usage of positive education in schools. The foundation of the framework is built on students’ and staff’s character strengths, linked with 6 different areas being positive relationships, positive emotions, positive health, positive engagement, positive accomplishment and positive purpose. The outer layer encourages anyone to learn about Pos Ed, embed its theories in everyday practices and live its philosophy by paying it forward.

By no means is this the only model out there, nor is it claiming that the implementation in our work happens through this framework alone. Outstanding educators and people are highly likely to already apply many elements of Positive Education in and beyond their teaching spaces. Positive Education is also not the same as “happiology” yet recognizes life’s challenges, ups and downs and the struggle in search for meaning.

Positive Education in Schools

Schools can be stressful environments for both staff and students. Getting through piles of paperwork, lesson preparations and staff meetings can overload the systems on the regular.

Navigating the social landscape as a developing adolescent of friendships and first loves while submitting assignments, taking assessments, dealing with not making the school’s varsity team while deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life, are experiences that most students go through too.

 

Positive Education might be the light at, what sometimes feels like, the end of a long tunnel. Positive relations can be built in classrooms, hallways and meetings if we are more aware in our conversations and use active constructive responding. We create a more pleasant learning environment if we focus on people’s character strengths and the areas that they shine brightest in. Teaching about neuroplasticity will help students understand and believe in the moldability of their capabilities. This will in turn nurture a growth mindset and the development of grit, paving the way for positive accomplishment.

Positive accomplishment encourages intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy causing us to continuously engage in activities that we thrive in. Dedicating your time to something you are willing to work for and develop a passion around, can lead to peak performance and flow states or “being in the zone.”

Providing regular opportunities for staff and students to exercise, reducing the workload to support getting enough sleep and providing healthy snacks at work, all fall under the domain of positive health. People do better when they feel better and people who feel better do better too. Placing ourselves in the service of others by the ways of caregiving, service learning and supporting others around us, can lead to a sense of purpose and meaning for ourselves. Concepts that make life truly worth living.

The field of positive education is a fascinating area from which we can all benefit.

If you have made it to the end of this plea and you are as enthusiastic about it as I am, I strongly recommend looking into the 8-week professional learning course “Discovering Positive Education 2.0” by Geelong Grammar School. Enrolling in this comprehensive program is by far the best professional development I have come across and has changed the way I approach teaching and learning from here onwards.

Go well, friends…

September 2021 TTTs

Several times a year, we turn professional learning over to our faculty & staff during Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTTs) sessions. TTTs focus on improving our collective professional practice, allowing us to engage with our colleagues. On Wednesday, September 22, we were excited to have our first TTTs of the school year.

90-minute Sessions
Coding Fun! Spiced up narrative writing
We will tell stories with animations using Scratch (examples). With voiceovers or speech bubbles, students can re-tell, summarize, or create stories with animations. We will also look at the scratch community and why it is a great world for students to get into.

 

Graffiti: Write your name in style
Take a chance to explore and play on the ISB Graffiti wall as we learn basic techniques and introductory methods in the skills of spray paint art. Limited to 14 people.

 

Jewelry Design
I’ll teach you how to use some software, and you’ll use it to design some jewelry. You’ll walk away with some new skills and some new bling!

I’m C6ed… Now What?
This follow-up session from C6 will dive deeper into Content, Language, and Cultural Objectives. Why do we write them? How do we write them? And most importantly how do we make these meaningful for students.

 

The Mindful Use of Power in the Classroom: How Authority Distorts Respect, Honesty, and Trust—and What You Can Do About It
Presentation of research on the distorting effects of power and authority on people’s perceptions and perspectives, followed by strategies and techniques to facilitate greater respect, honesty, and trust in school settings (and examples/case studies to discuss).

 

Ceramics – Learn to Play
Join us for some stress-relief ceramics fun, and to create something that you can take home and brag about it! 🙂

45-minute Sessions
Sip and Read
Love the smell of a new book? Come discover the delightful new books the ES library has purchased to support our SEL focus! ABAR, inclusivity, equity, LBGTQIA+, friendship, emotions, and more! Hey MS/HS folk, picture books aren’t just for little kids! These big concepts are often best deconstructed using accessible stories so come browse! Staff Resources

Exploring Backstage
Take an all-access tour of the ISB theatre venues to see what goes on backstage. If you are curious about all the theatre ‘hidden spaces’ or how the magic happens, then now is your chance. There will be stairs involved as we visit the highest and lowest spots in the theatre.

 

Singing for Mind and Body
In this session, we will learn a couple of easy songs to sing in a group and discuss how singing can positively affect your mental and physical health.

 

Wellness with Basketball
We will host a wellness option of a friendly basketball game! Co-ed and any skill level welcome, you can play in long pants and shirt or whatever!

 

Hill’s School of Hot Sauce 
Want to learn to make your own hot sauce? This is the wellness activity you’ve been looking for! This will be the first of two sessions. You’ll need to be able to come back on the morning of Sat Sept 25 or at 4:30 on Monday Sept 27.

 

ABAR Conversations 1
For those who want to know more about ABAR, ask some questions, and begin engaging in this work.

 

Deconstructing DX: Learning how to create beautiful lessons
In this session, we will learn how to create units, lesson pages, quizzes, and assignments in DX. This is a great way to make lessons accessible for all!

 

Having Fun With Glyths!
What are glyphs? Glyphs are a pictorial form of data collection. Glyphs can be used as a fun SEL activity or as a summative assessment. Come and learn about a fun way to assess students using paper and glue.

 

Excel 101
Learn some simple Excel tips and tricks. In this session, we will focus on the basics of how to work with Excel. Bring your laptop and any burning questions you have and we’ll explore together.

 

 

Ideas for in-depth reading in Chinese classes
Wondering how to teach students to read? Want to know more about strategies for in-depth reading? Join this session to enhance our collective knowledge and skills on effective reading. Staff Resources

 

Making excellent graphics
Want to improve your graphic design skills when making resources for your classes? Join us as we look at some simple rules and techniques for improving your visual communication skills. Staff Resources

 

Integrating creative data collection and visualization with a Dear Data project
A Dear Data project gives students an authentic way to collect data about their own lives and present their findings with a creative visualization. Topics can include any content area, including SEL topics. Students keep a process journal throughout, integrating literacy and notebooking skills.

 

Executive Functioning Skills 101
This session will go into detail about what Executive Functioning Skills are, why they are important, how we can build on them at school, and tips on how parents can reinforce them at home.

 

Simplify Your Life with Power Automate and Mail Merge
How do you empower students and personalize communication quickly? Come see examples using two tools and brainstorm how you might leverage them in your classroom! Resources: Slides, Mail Merge Survey, TTT Automation Mail Merge Sample.xlsx, Student Interest Survey Template.docx, Power Automate Survey, Power Automate Home Page

 

Classroom management for TAs
Work with kids but not trained as a teacher? Come learn basics of managing a classroom and feel more confident while support students’ learning.

 

Practical Practice for Reading in DL
This workshop bases on Chinese reading and learning in DL program, but is applicable to other language reading. It focuses on using reading assessment data to plan and arrange reading activities; planning stations with word study, character learning, self-reading, and guided reading to students across a big range of language proficiency; sharing station examples.

 

ABAR Conversations 2
For those who are ready to have some deeper conversations, lean into some discomfort, and continue to engage in this work.

 

Fall 2021 Cohort 1 C6 Homework
Need some time and support to catch up on your C6 homework before our next session Saturday? Keen to collaborate with colleagues in the cohort? This session is for you!

An unexpected and contradictory intersection between reading and empathy

This timing of this post arrives when two areas of thinking I’ve informally explored over the past few years are intersecting in unexpected and contradictory ways.

Part of the intersection occurred in October, when I attended a session by Dr. John Feland at The Nueva School’s 2019 Innovative Learning Conference titled, “Stumbling Toward Empathy; Lessons Learned in Building Cognitive Empathy in the Unmyelinated Teenage Frontal Cortex”. The research Dr. Feland shared revealed that teenagers are actually unable to empathize, as this requires a fully developed frontal cortex, which we now know does not occur until one’s early 20s. In fact, Feland further explained, when we expose teenagers to media intended to evoke an empathic response, the opposite can occur – these kinds of experiences can trigger distress in teenagers (Feland, 2019).

I made an immediate connection to the loud, collective voice from within the reading community of which I consider myself a participating member. We often speak of the power of reading, specifically that done by the pre-teen and teenagers I work with every day, to evoke empathy. I’ve come across this incantation, and uttered it myself many times. Most recently, I read it in Maryanne Wolf’s (2018) Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. Wolf’s primary concern is that readers today are developing a reading circuitry in the brain which differs from the one developed in the past, pre-digital era; a question she poses in the first chapter reads, “will the combination of reading on digital formats and daily immersion in a variety of digital experiences–from social media to virtual games–impede the formation of the slower cognitive processes such as critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination, and empathy that are all part of deep reading” (p.8)? 

Herein lies the contradiction.

If you are not familiar with Wolf’s work, it is important to know that she is at the forefront of neuroscience when it comes to mapping what the brain does when it reads. If Maryanne Wolf says deep reading is connected to the formation of the process of empathy, she likely has some brain imaging to support this claim. This leaves me in a bit of a dilemma: Is the claim that reading can support the development of empathy, specifically in teenagers, a false claim, or is a more nuanced claim out there that can show a connection, albeit one that occurs over time?

I also wonder, what exactly are we seeing in our teenagers when they do read something that clearly has an impact, if it is not empathy? I recently asked a counselor colleague about this, and she shared her understanding of the teenage brain and its capacity and desire to help others in need (K. Haines, personal communication, November 24). This line of thinking supported an earlier conversation with yet another colleague over the need to implement empathic habits in our teenagers, even if the act of true empathy evades our learners (J. Binns, personal communication, November 21). And there is a larger issue for me, as a Teacher-Librarian specifically: I need to be very careful with my rhetoric about reading and empathy. This lifelong learning requires constant adjustment of my beliefs.

This is what I am currently grappling with on a meta, behind-the-scenes level. If you would like to discuss this further and perhaps even provide some next reads for me, I welcome your interest.

References

Feland, J. (2019, October). Stumbling toward empathy; lessons learned in building cognitive empathy in the unmyelinated teenage frontal cortex. Presented at the Nueva Innovative Learning Conference, San Francisco, CA.
Wolf, M. (2018). Reader, come home: The reading brain in a digital world. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

The “Why” of Professional Learning Blogs

So we’ve started blogging our professional learning journeys, but why? 
21st Century Learners
A report from The Institute for the Future, claims that emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), are going to completely transform the workplace by 2030 (2017). This change is happening so quickly that an estimated 85 percent of the jobs that will make up the future workforce are yet to been invented (IFF, 2017). In light of such rapid change, preparing students for specific careers is of decreasing value, and the role of teachers becomes increasingly more challenging given the constantly changing landscape. The nature of innovation also suggests that most students can expect to change jobs several times throughout their career (Harper, 2018) making it imperative that education prepares them with the skills required for success. With this being said, no longer is it sufficient for us, as educators, to simply explain our subject-matter well, rather, we must motivate students to learn which requires us to take on new roles – challenger, activator, facilitator, coach, mentor and reflector of students’ learning processes (Vermont, 2014). These challenging and complex roles we face require us to be able to reflect critically. 
Reflective Practice & Metacognition
John Dewey’s book How We Think (1933) is widely accepted as the origin of the concept of reflective thinking as a key component of learning. In his later work, Dewey emphasised the importance of reflective thinking in teachers, discriminating between routine and reflective action (Dewey, 1933 in Liu, 2015). Reflection plays an important role in developing our metacognitive skills which can facilitate both formal and informal learning. 
The theory suggests that metacognition consists of two processes:

  1. the knowledge of cognition – knowledge of the factors that influence performance and the strategies used for learning
  2. the regulation of cognition – setting goals, planning, monitoring and controlling learning, and assessing the results and strategies used 

Blogging facilitates a number of metacognitive strategies including the fostering of self-reflection, self-questioning, access to mentors, self-explanations while offering an authentic audience to which we can ask questions and gain feedback. 
Studies have shown that learners often show an increase in self-confidence when they build metacognitive skills (Hacker, 2009) which leads to improved self-efficacy, motivation and learning success which is exactly what we, as educators, require in this forever changing educational paradigm. Whether it’s educators blogging about their professional growth or students blogging their learning journeys, the intention is the same – reflection and growth. When we curate artefacts and reflect on ourselves as learners, making connections from year-to-year, we develop our metacognitive ability. Our blogs provide a space to build a collection of reflective pieces that richly represents us, as learners, and provides authentic evidence of learning. 
Skill Development & Collaboration
Alongside our development as reflective learners, we are also developing 21st Century skills around web authoring and publishing, in the same way, we expect of our students. Within your blog, you can include text, images, videos and links to external sites as evidence to support your ideas. Considering the challenges associated with working in different divisions, the professional blogging network offers a place for us to connect as a professional learning community. The online community supports opportunities for collaborative learning that enriches learning performance, both for individual knowledge construction and group knowledge sharing (Shih-Hsien, 2009). By commenting on the posts of others, with feedback and questions, we spark further thinking and analysis to support critical reflection. 
So Why Blog?
Dewey (1933) insists that if we want to ensure our experience is educative, it is necessary to support ongoing growth as a process of continuing new inquiry. Blogging our professional learning journey encourages us to step back, reflect critically, and analyse our efforts while the community challenges us to be more thoughtful and mindful of our work. These processes prepare us to think reflectively and critically to foster continued professional growth. “To be a professional is not to have all the answers. Rather, a professional is someone who can reflect on tentative solutions, collaborate with others on the possible avenues available, and risk making mistakes because mistakes are an inevitable part of building new roads” (Lester & Mayher, 1987).
 
References

  • Dewey, J. (1933). How we think, New York: DC Heath
  • Hacker, Douglas J., John Dunlosky and Arthur C. Graesser (Eds.). Handbook of Metacognition in Education, 2009.
  • Harper, A. (2018). New approaches needed to prepare students for unknown careers. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://www.educationdive.com/news/new-approaches-needed- to-prepare-students-for-unknown-careers/529604/  
  • Institute For The Future. (n.d.). (2017) Retrieved from http://www.iftf.org/humanmachinepartnerships/
  • Lester, N. B., & Mayher, J. S. (1987). Critical professional inquiry. English Education, 19 (4), 198–210. 
  • Liu, K. (2015). Critical reflection as a framework for transformative learning in teacher education. Educational Review, 67(2), 135–157.
  • Shih-Hsien, Y. (2009). Using blogs to enhance critical reflection and community of practice. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 12(2), 11-1. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.proxy18.noblenet.org/docview/1287038236?accountid=43872
  • Vermont, J. D. (2014). Teacher Learning and Professional Development. In S. Krolak-Schwerdt, S. Glock, & M. Böhmer (Eds.), Teachers’ Professional Development: Assesment, Training, and Learning (pp. 79–95). Rotterdam, Boston, Taipei: Sense Publishers. 

My Ongoing, Messy, Roundabout Journey Toward Cultural Proficiency

Do you notice yourself remembering the names of the white kids more easily than the names of the Asian kids?” 
This was asked of me last year by a close friend and colleague. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Because as I thought about which students I acknowledged by name in the hallway, who I would ask teachers about, who I took time to build rapport with I was unconsciously investing more time in the white kids. Research says that we do tend to have a natural affinity for  people that we see as like us. In fact, an article published by Phi Delta Kappan “recent studies have found that children as young as three months old can racially categorize people” (Hagerman, M.A., 2019). 
AND I am someone that sees myself as an advocate for marginalized groups. I speak out, often to the point where it makes my family shift in their seats, about injustices in the world. I recognize that as a white, heterosexual, cisgender, English speaking woman, I have a huge amount of privilege. I feel a duty to use my privilege to support others and dismantle systems of traditional power in the world. And yet, I still hold implicit bias and look for what’s familiar and comfortable. 
An article published this summer by actor N’Jameh Camara talks about why some names are more memorable than others. She speaks honestly about how when people don’t use her name and instead use a “generic substitute,” she notices. She challenges us to think that names are not “hard” or “difficult to say” but rather “unpracticed.” I love that. Perhaps my favorite quote is, “but as a person who was taught to respect and say Tchaikovsky, Brecht, Chekhov, Stanislavski, and Hammerstein, I know my name can be learned too. What matters most is that we see ourselves as people whose vulnerability and mistake-making hold the potential to bring us closer” (Camara, N., 2019).  
Fortunately, recognizing that we hold implicit bias is a crucial first step in doing something about it. Founder of the C6 Biliteracy Framework and honorary ISB Dragon, Dr. José Medina, shares the Cultural Proficiency Continuum in his trainings and I find myself referring to it constantly. It has supported me in recognizing when we are being culturally destructive. This continuum has given me the language and tools to reflect and speak up when I hear things that are not inclusive and supporting of our community. 

Original source of continuum: Lindsey, R.B., Robbins, K.N., and Terrell, R. D.  (2009). Cultural Proficiency A Manual for School Leaders. Examples and quotes original.  

As a coach at ISB, I get the honor to work with and learn from the incredible educators here. I am so fortunate to see the high-quality teaching and care teachers share with students. I am all in when it comes to helping others who I coach, I care deeply about them as people and care completely about nudging them to where they want to grow. But as coach, as Elena Aguilar says in her article, “I have to keep the faces of all the children who [teachers] are responsible for, whose lives [teachers] affect, in my symbolic peripheral vision, equally in focus and present and part of the conversation. I am accountable to those children” (Aguilar, E., 2014). Coaching or collaborating without a focus of creating equity and access for our students is a missed opportunity we cannot afford to pass up.  
My journey towards cultural proficiency is not over. I still slip up, or occasionally bite my lip when I hear something that marginalizes others. But I am also committed to improving. If you have books, research, ideas, people you follow, tips and suggestions, or just want to talk about this with someone, I would love to learn. 

References: 
Aguilar, E. (2014). Why we must all Be Coaches for Equity. Education Week. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coaching_teachers/2014/12/why_we_must_all_be_coaches_for.html 
Camara, N. (2019). Names That Are Unfamiliar to you Aren’t “Hard,” They’re “Unpracticed”. Teen Vogue. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/names-that-are-unfamiliar-to-you-arent-hard-theyre-unpracticed?fbclid=IwAR0rwGC_Xxs59fUSKgBErE2vl9tA2ASVmmwHfqmNwdULnJm17cs0Qup3k_A 
Hagerman, M.A. (2019). Conversations with Kids about Race. Phi Delta Kappan. https://www.kappanonline.org/conversations-children-race-childhood-racism-hagerman/ 
Lindsey, R.B., Robbins, K.N., and Terrell, R. D.  (2009). Cultural Proficiency A Manual for School Leaders. 

Professional Learning in the 21st Century

With the onset of a new approach to professional learning at ISB, teachers have started blogging their professional goals and reflection using the new Teach blogging network. Currently, we have just over 50 faculty members participating in the pilot which involves student surveys using Tripod’s 7Cs framework and goal development through reflection on these survey results. The 7Cs framework groups components into three conceptual categories:

  • personal support (care and confer),
  • curricular support (captivate, clarify, and consolidate); and
  • academic press (challenge and classroom management)

The survey questions for students are designed in a way to provide teachers with feedback based on the 7Cs. For example:
Care       My teacher makes me feel that he/she really cares about me
Confer   My teacher gives us time to explain our ideas
By reflecting on the feedback from the survey, a teacher chooses to set a goal based on one of the 7Cs. The professional learning blogs are used to document goals and provide evidence to support progress throughout the year. Alongside ongoing reflection, the professional learning community contributes to the ongoing dialogue, in particular, those recognised as playing an immediate role. Modelling Life-long Learning & Reflection
There are many benefits to blogging our professional learning journey. Most significantly, the modelling of life-long learning and the importance of reflection being ongoing and evidence-based. Through this reflective process, a blog is a great way to collect and consider your teaching experiences and creates a landing page for your most important notes. You might choose to post curriculum ideas, resources, details of a conference you attended or even recaps from classes you’ve taught or observed – Sharing these with the professional learning community is a great way to keep track of what you’ve learned and seek feedback from colleagues or those beyond ISB. A professional learning blog makes looking back on what worked well and what didn’t a quick and easy task and it’s a way for us to recognise our professional growth over many years.

Increased Confidence & Idea Development 
Blogging has the ability to give you an important and necessary motivation boost. This platform is not only a space for goal setting it is also a place for you to showcase your achievements, in the classroom and beyond. Blogging about your passions and sharing student work can be a great way to get support from colleagues and education professionals. On days when we feel overwhelmed, a comment on a recent blog post can provide a much-needed boost!

Connecting & Sharing with Others
In 2018, a blog is a great way to stay current in the latest Ed Tech movements, expand your educational interests and helps to build your online presence. It may even shape a new interest or lead the way to consultancy work. Blogging can help us to teach with intention, start conversations, share professional experiences, new ideas, or carve out a professional niche. The Teach blogging network gives you an opportunity to read your colleagues’ blogs and discover unique ways to improve your professional practice. By responding to blogs you’ve read or engaged with, you open up a whole new world of professional communication and collaboration opportunities across the school. 

Show your support in building this professional learning community and pay a visit to Teach Some teachers are yet to post, but many have! Spend a few minutes viewing your colleagues’ professional learning blogs, some of whom are blogging for the very first time! Let them know you’ve been there by leaving a comment.

If you are interested in joining this community of online professional learners, don’t hesitate to contact your Ed Tech Facilitator and we can get you set up. You don’t have to be a part of the professional growth pilot so start your blogging journey with us NOW!

Sip and Read!

What’s better than reading the newest and greatest books?

Eating, drinking, talking and getting FREE BOOKS while you’re doing it!

We all know as busy teachers that we NEED to gather new books and resources to engage our students in inquiry, introduce or consolidate ideas and concepts, or simply to immerse them in worlds other than their own.

Yet finding the time to do so can feel challenging.

In step the librarians!

We adore curating resources for teachers – it’s our superpower – and we are the best book pushers on the planet. With over 50 boxes of spectacular new books arriving so far this school year, we knew we had to get them in teachers’ hands, STAT!

Thanks to this week’s staff development time being dedicated to team time, each of the grade levels had purposely allocated time to head on down to the library to feast upon hundreds of the latest arrivals to our collection.

The delicious drinks (served in wine glasses to make us feel a bit fancier) and snacks (thanks to charity bakery, Bread of Life,) helped relax the atmosphere further.

Once bellies were filled, and the book shopping began, you could see shoulders relaxing and people losing themselves in beautiful texts.

Teachers flowed through areas showcasing beautiful picture books aimed at our youngest learners, introductory non-fiction texts and onto challenging and engaging sophisticated picture books and narrative non-fiction.

Deeper into the library were tables highlighting perfect read alouds, the perennial favorites in graphic novels and almost 200 genrified chapter books. Along the tops of the non-fiction bookshelves were new books that were purchased to match grade level inquiry units and Writer’s Workshop units.

    

But there was more!

Along the edge of the library were new high interest non-fiction books across all topics and ages and projected in one of the teaching spaces was the QR code for teachers to sign up to RB Digital for both student and faculty magazines and newspapers.

Finally, SWAG! (Who doesn’t love free stuff??)

On the way out the door, teachers were encouraged to take two gifts:

  • 8-10 titles from past Panda Book Award lists to add to their classroom libraries (they had just been deleted from the Teacher Resource Center),
  • Three posters of QR codes, curated for their specific grade level: search engines, royalty free images, and databases.

It was an incredible opportunity for us to connect with the teams we support, and to show them the ways new resources can complement their teaching. What a joy it was to have quiet, relaxed conversations about powerful books that have the potential to move students’ ideas and hearts. What a privilege it was to flesh out possible provocations for upcoming inquiry units and to provide easy and efficient ways to ensure ethical uses of information. 

Perhaps most happily of all was hearing teachers genuinely appreciate the dedicated time to relish browsing and borrowing without the need to simultaneously supervise students.

We always have chocolate, we always have ideas, we always have books, and we will always make time.

Come visit us!

Building Empathy with our Students

I recently read an article published by Jay McTighe entitled Three Lessons for Teachers from Grant Wiggins. Several of us know the late Grant Wiggins for his work around Understanding by Design, feedback for students, and his cheerful and thought provoking dispositions.
For me the most notable lesson Wiggins had to share in the article was “Empathize with the learner.” I have always been a classroom teacher. I feel fairly confident that I know what the experience is like as an elementary schooler; I see them on the playground, I acknowledge the pressures they feel from parents, and I value their diverse interests and needs. However, there is so much more to their day-to-day experience than the opportunities we explicitly provide them.
With this in mind I decided to heed one suggestion to help me build empathy with students-shadowing a student for a day. I looked at my schedule, contacted a lower elementary teacher, was given a buddy, and spent an entire afternoon in that classroom. Fortunately, the homeroom and Chinese teacher welcomed me and the idea and agreed to let me come in on the fourth day of school. I am very grateful and appreciative to the teachers for letting me come in and learn.
Before I walked into the classroom room Thursday afternoon I set some agreements for myself:

  • I would follow the daily schedule, including specials.
  • I would sit with my buddy wherever she sat (carpet, table, couch, etc).
  • I would follow the classroom rules and procedures (rules for bathroom, water, electronics).
  • I would take my teacher hat off but be observant of my behaviors in order to reflect on the experience.

Here are some of my takeaways:

  1. Our teachers cultivate incredible communities within the first week of school.

Seeing as it was the fourth day of school, I was not surprised when the teacher told me beforehand that she was spending a lot of time on routines. However, while there were procedures and routines being learned it was done in such a thoughtful, kind, and caring way. The classroom rules were in positive language, children were encouraged to think and discuss why we have rules, and the classroom had thought provoking questions all around the room. When a student needed a reminder or redirection it was done seamlessly and with a smile and it was focused exclusively on the behavior, not the student. I found myself smiling and laughing along with the teacher and other students because there was such a warm feeling in the room. The read aloud and community building game at the end of the day was such a beautiful example of how our teachers consciously make decisions to develop the whole child and nurture the needs of the students in the room.

  1. Our students show more empathy to one another than we realize.

When I was on the carpet during math time and working at a student table there were frequent opportunities for interaction. I was amazed at the way the students spoke and interacted with one another without much direction from the teacher. They were inclusive, working together, sharing, showing self-awareness, encouraging others to share ideas, and making space for one another. This was all done not because the teacher reminded students but because of who they naturally are as individuals. It was really heart-warming. During the short game at the end of the day I observed how well the students were including everyone and supporting one another.

  1. As engaging, brilliant, and planned as we are, our students will not hear everything we say.

We ask our students to listen a lot. We are frequently asking questions, giving directions, restating directions, modeling, giving examples, giving non examples, making students laugh, and a myriad of other things. It’s a lot to listen to as a student! After some time on the carpet my eyes were starting to wander around the room. I was taking in the classroom set up, glanced at the clock, looked at the math center, noticed what other students were doing. All the while, I thought I was listening but when the directions came of what to do with the math manipulatives I realized I had completely missed the instructions. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with them! If this happens to us as adults, it is definitely happening for our students.

  1. I failed at taking off my teacher hat.

If I was really doing this right, I would have spent more time focusing on being a student. But in truth I was always thinking through the lens of a teacher. I was adding management strategies to my tool box, when the small group I was working with was stuck I was scaffolding my questions to help students, and when I saw a student in the hallway hit another student I immediately walked over and spoke with the child to have him apologize. But I’m going to give myself a pass on this one.

  1. Teaching is hard, but being a student is harder.

There is no doubt that ISB is full of hard-working, talented, and amazing educators. Our job is not easy. But, we at least have the benefit of knowing the content, we have the benefit of understanding how the activity should go, how long the lesson will take, what will be covered when. We have the power to change something when it’s not working, speed up or slow down when we need to, and ask questions to help our students get there. Our students don’t usually have this power. They are learning new content, reflecting on something new, learning to work with other people, and are reliant on the adults to (generally) dictate the time and the content. Add in the additional challenges of being a new student, learning in your non-native language, or mastering difficult content and we realize just how tough a student’s job is.
The experience of shadowing a student was incredible, and one I highly recommend even if only for a short duration. Have you experienced a Chinese class at ISB? Have you attended Art or PE? Sat with your children through lunch? Completed the homework they have night after night for a week? It just might help us build empathy with our students, and with each other.

Thinking About Beginnings…and Return of the Bad Bloggers!

We used to blog…how many of us can say that?  This is very much true for the OOL (and me personally as I seem to have abandoned my personal blog about the time I joined ISB!).  But like many bloggers, we are back with a renewed commitment to blogging and sharing.  We are committed to improving our blogging and sharing on the #learnisb blog.  Mostly we share articles, great work going on in the school, thoughts about what we are reading, resources etc.  We also maintain a pretty up to date calendar for professional learning for both ISB and for the region, listing various workshop and conferences around Asia that you might be of interest.
So…our goal is to do better this year! Let’s see how we do…
(adapted from an earlier post in Aug. 2015)
The start of a new school year is always a good time to think about the beginnings our community is experiencing. As an international school we have beginning on multiple levels.  There are new colleagues beginning their ISB experience, new students experiencing Beijing for the first time, new administrators working through the complexities of a large organization and all of us in our various years of service at ISB have new students, and sometimes new classes.
The ASCD Educational Leadership magazine in April of 2011 wrote about the academic and social/emotional transitions for children at various ages or points in their academic lives.  As we get ready for our first full week of school, these ideas about beginnings are sure to resonate with some. There is a little something for everyone.
Please note: to access these articles you will need the ASCD log-in information that was sent in the email about this blog post.
Happy reading.
Are We Paving Paradise -Kindergarten 
Supporting Early School Success
The Ups and Downs of Third Grade
Leap into Fourth Grade
Demystifying the Adolescent Brain
Moving Up to the Middle
Middle Years: Girls Leading Outwards
Rally Behind At-Risk Freshman
High School and Beyond: Fighting College Craziness
And here is a little bonus article I ran across this week….6 Questions to Ask your Students on Day One.
Have a great start to the new school year!

Thinking PD and Learning 2.017 in Shanghai Next Year

We have been busy confirming all of the ISB professional learning for next year.  All dates are posted on the calendar on this page.
We have a lot going on next year to support you across the school:

  • Writing Workshop implementation in the ES
  • Assessment work in the MS and HS to support our SBGR work
  • SIOP training…yeah, Jose is back! Available to all and there should be two sessions next year for SIOP training
  • We will continue our MSIS sessions for ES and MS
  • Continued support for inquiry focused unit development in Science and Social Studies in the ES
  • Science – we love Paul Anderson and he is coming back

All of this and more will be found on the calendar. We will begin listing other regional workshop as well as they become available.
One in particular I would like to highlight, as it is the region, Learning 2.017 hosted by Shanghai American School (Puxi Campus) on Nov. 2-4th.  We would like to encourage teacher presentations and when you register you can indicate your interest in presenting and if your presentation is selected, ISB will support your registration. There is lots of great work at ISB and this is a fantastic opportunity to share it with a larger community of interested teachers.
 
I encourage you to register early as they are often closed by the time we return in August
 

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